As I am certain you are all aware, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, was sentenced to 15 months confinement, loss of rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge last week, the charge being “Missing Movement” or failure to get on a plane. In actuality, the charge was “filing a Conscientious Objector packet against the recommendation of his commander, who had no intention of allowing my husband to follow his conscience, and therefore serving notice to the rest of our military that they should not follow suit.”
I need to assure you that I do not make this statement out of anger, but rather by simply pointing to the facts. Not only did my husband’s commander address this in a public comment to the media, the prosecutor used this in his closing statements, and the military representative was adamant about this in his public comments to the media immediately following my husband’s court martial.
I am not writing out of anger. I am writing to request the opportunity to meet with one of you to discuss my husband’s case from our point of view, as this has not been allowed to this point. Even in my husband’s court martial, he was not allowed to discuss his beliefs, his reasons, or the fact that he has given 10 years of honorable service to his country, including a combat tour in Iraq, for which he received two Army commendation medals for meritorious service.
My husband’s case for Conscientious Objection was brushed aside and mishandled so that his entire career of service came down to a meeting with his Command Sgt. Major that lasted less than one hour. My husband’s testimony regarding this meeting has remained unchanged, as has my witness to that meeting. The Command Sgt. Major’s testimony was re-written and sworn to on at least 5 separate occasions, each testimony contradicting another, even as they were presented in my husband’s court martial.
In fairness to each of you, to the US Army, to the people of this country and mostly to my husband, who is paying the price for being falsely charged, I am respectfully requesting that the appeal process for his case be allowed to proceed without delay, and that he be given fair treatment not only in a re-presentation of the facts surrounding his court martial, but that he also be given the opportunity to have his application for Conscientious Objector status reconsidered as well.
We are all living in difficult times. My husband served in this war, and the effects it had on him will live with him for the rest of his life. We do not intend to dishonor the service of all the military personnel still serving, each will have to make the choice for themselves of how to live with their beliefs and their conscience.
We will not say that the beliefs of those still fighting are wrong. We can only say for certain that what my husband was ordered to continue to believe, by his command, is very wrong for him. This is the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sirs, my husband freely volunteered to serve in the United States Army because he believed it was right. He gave 10 years of honorable service because he believed it was right for him. After seeing war firsthand, he knew that he could not participate any longer; because he KNEW war was the wrong choice for him.
The stand he has taken, to say NO to war and to lay down his weapon in the face of so many who do not understand, is what I believe gives him the right to live in this “home of the brave,” as one of the bravest. I have never met any of you. I hear what others say about you, but I cannot say the same. I do not know you.
I would like the opportunity to know you, so that I could know what to believe. I would like the opportunity to sit with each of you and discuss what my husband believes, as people who care about our country and those who serve it. Our country needs to heal. War has divided our country, our families and our world.
I would like the opportunity to present our views for a different approach to lasting peace. We believe that we can make this country strong on our shores, that we can develop ways to defend our country without taking the fight to foreign lands. We believe that we can work together to provide adequate means to secure our land so that we will not have to “get to them before they can get to us.” It will involve more than just coffee table discussions, and we make no illusion, no doubt there will be loss.
As we work through the process and remain firm in our commitment to not allow ourselves to be drawn into violence, we know that some will try to force us against our will, to show us to be weak by daring us to lose control. BUT the loss incurred will be far less than what we have already faced, and the innocents who now suffer will not be so openly in harm’s way. Taking a stand for what we believe, for a commitment to seeing that peace happens and that those who threaten this peace are neutralized does not have to involve weapons meant for killing.
Animals on this earth were given their weapons; teeth, claws and a ravage tenacity to protect what is theirs and keep “enemies” at bay. Humanity was given something much different, a far more significant weapon. Humanity was given a mind. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the power of our mind and what it can be used for.
It became easy to create weapons of destruction, far easier than to use our minds to think and create strong principles for preventing the use of these weapons. We believe that we should take pride in our abilities to use our mental strength. We believe that we should develop this asset and work with courage toward peace by drafting positive resolutions, knowing that while the implementation of these resolutions will result in some loss, it will be far less than the loss we face with weapons of destruction in our hands, no different than “the enemy” facing us. We believe we should stand strong and confident in knowing that we have the courage of heart and strength of intellect to overcome the basest animalistic tendencies that so easily drive us to forget that we are human. We believe it is time to rise up from a position of strength knowing that there is no “enemy” greater than ourselves, when we lose respect for our God-given abilities and resort to violence as an answer.
Our world is divided because of war. We see children dying who will never have the chance to grow to use their talents to help our world. We see children who have lost their fathers. How will they grow? Will there be resentment, or will they come to believe that they must become strong in saying NO to war? We see mothers crying as they reach out to find a noble cause for their sons’ deaths.
Wouldn’t the cause be far nobler if the solution were to lay down our guns and say, “not one more person should have to die when we have the strength to resolve our problems without violence?” We see homes destroyed, a country laid waste to, and people struggling to survive. Will they one day say “thank you” for making my world better because of war? OR “ will they find forgiveness and reach out in hope when we put our weapons away and give them the freedom to do what they must to heal their country and their homes? This world is great and we are all part of it.
War only creates chaos, it will never bring lasting peace, and fighting with killing machines to keep the turmoil from reaching our shores will only prolong the agony. We believe we must work together to strengthen us, to secure us, and to use our strength wisely to show the world that we mean business when we say that no one will control us, our actions or our way of life.
To take the stand of strength, to honor those who have served this country with their sacrifices, we believe we must rise above the violence and say “NO MORE,” we will not allow ourselves to be drawn to a position of having to use their methods to resolve our differences. Sirs, nothing that results in such massive destruction can ever be counted as success on the way to lasting peace. Please consider my request.
Please understand that I mean no disrespect, nor does the stand that my husband has taken. We care about our country, we care about healing the wounds we all now feel. We know that our country stands for human rights, for respecting others and for leading others to their personal freedom by giving them the right to make the choices that are best for them, as long as they bring no intentional pain to anyone else. We believe it is time to reach out for what makes us truly strong and to leave the way of violence behind.
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my husband’s case with you. Mostly, I look forward to the opportunity to work together in strength, to bring lasting peace to our world, and to see our country represented by the confidence of a principled stand for conscience that all people deserve.